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New gene test enables early oral cancer detection

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New gene test enables early oral cancer detection
Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London, have developed a new gene test that detects precancerous cells in patients with mouth lesions. They think that the test could offer the possibility of early and less invasive treatments, improving the quality of life and chance of survival of mouth cancer patients significantly.

According to the researchers, 30 per cent of mouth lesions turn into cancers. To date, however, there has been no test available to detect accurately which lesions might become cancerous for early treatment.

The newly developed quantitative Malignancy Index Diagnostic System measures the levels of 16 genes that are highly expressed in many cancer types. Their mRNA expression levels are translated via a diagnostic algorithm into a metric scoring system, which quantifies the risk of the lesion becoming cancerous.

In preliminary studies of 299 hospital patients in Norway and the UK, the test detected 91 to 94 per cent of cancer cases from 359 head and neck tissue specimens.

Compared with conventional histopathology, the new test is less invasive because it requires only a 1 to 2 mm piece of tissue and can provide results within less than three hours. Histopathology involves tissue biopsy and pathological examination, may take up to a week to yield results, and detects mouth cancer at a much later stage.

“Detecting cancer early, coupled with appropriate treatment can improve patients’ outcomes significantly, reduce mortality and alleviate long-term public health care costs,” said Dr Muy-Teck Teh, lead investigator and inventor of the test.

In addition, the researchers demonstrated that the system could be used for diagnosing cancer in patients with suspicious skin and vulva lesions, illustrating its potential clinical use for other cancer types.



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